The Story of the Emergence: Endnotes

from Navajo Legends (1897) by Washington Matthews



  1. No antecedent. We are first told to whom “they” refers in paragraph 139.
  2. In symbolizing by color the four cardinal points, the Navahoes have two principal systems, as follows:—

East.      South.   West.    North.

First System        White.   Blue.      Yellow.  Black.

Second System  Black.    Blue.      Yellow.  White.

Both systems are the same, except that the colors black and white change places. The reasons for this change have not been satisfactorily determined. In general, it seems that when speaking of places over ground—lucky and happy places—the first system is employed; while, when places underground—usually places of danger—are described, the second system is used. But there are many apparent exceptions to the latter rule. In one version of the Origin Legend (Version B) the colors are arranged according to the second system both in the lower and upper worlds. In the version of the same legend here published the first system is given for all places in the lower worlds, except in the house of Tiéholtsodi under the waters (par. 178), where the east room is described as dark and the room in the north as being of all colors. Yet the Indian who gave this version (Hatáli Nĕz), in his Prayer of the Rendition (note 315), applies the second system to all regions traversed below the surface of the earth by the gods who come to rescue the lost soul. Although he does not say that the black chamber is in the east, he shows it corresponds with the east by mentioning it first. Hatáli Natlói, in the “Story of Natĭ′nĕsthani,” follows the first system in all cases except when describing the house of Tiéholtsodi under the water, where the first chamber is represented as black and the last as white. Although in this case the rooms may be regarded as placed one above another, the black being mentioned first shows that it is intended to correspond with the east. In all cases, in naming the points of the compass, or anything which symbolizes them, or in placing objects which pertain to them (note 227), the east comes first, the south second, the west third, the north fourth. The sunwise circuit is always followed. If the zenith and nadir are mentioned, the former comes fifth and the latter sixth in order. The north is sometimes symbolized by “all colors,” i.e., white, blue, yellow, and black mixed (note 22), and sometimes by red. In the myth of dsĭlyĭ′dze hatál314 (the story of Dsĭ′lyiʻ Neyáni) five homes of holy people underground are described, in all of which the second system is used. See, also, note 111, where the second system is applied to the house of the sun. In the story of the “Great Shell of Kĭntyél” at the home of the Spider Woman underground, in the sky world, the east is represented by black and the north by white. (See par. 581 and note 40.)

  1. There are but three streams and but nine villages or localities mentioned, while twelve winged tribes are named. Probably three are supposed to have lived in the north where no stream ran, or there may have been a fourth river in the Navaho paradise, whose name is for some reason suppressed.

References to the sacred number four are introduced with tiresome pertinacity into all Navaho legends.

  1. Version B.—In the first world three dwelt, viz.: First Man, First Woman, and Coyote.
  2. The swallow to which reference is made here is the cliff swallow,—Petrochelidon lunifrons.
  3. The colors given to the lower worlds in this legend—red for the first, blue for the second, yellow for the third, and mixed for the fourth—are not in the line of ordinary Navaho symbolism (note 18), but they agree very closely with some Moki symbolism, as described by Victor Mindeleff in his “Study of Pueblo Architecture,”324 p. 129. The colors there mentioned, if placed in order according to the Navaho system (note 18), would stand thus: red (east), blue (south), yellow (west), white (north). Mixed colors sometimes take the place of the north or last in Navaho symbolism. Possibly Moki elements have entered into this version of the Navaho legend. (See par. 91.)
  4. Version B.—In the second world, when First Man, First Woman, and Coyote ascended, they found those who afterwards carried the sun and moon, and, beyond the bounds of the earth, he of the darkness in the east, he of the blueness [217]in the south, he of the yellowness in the west, and he of the whiteness in the north (perhaps the same as White Body, Blue Body, etc., of the fourth world in the present version. See par. 160). Sun and First Woman were the transgressors who caused the exodus.
  5. Version B.—When the five individuals mentioned in note 23 came from the second world, they found the “people of the mountains” already occupying the third world.
  6. Version B.—The people were chased from the third world to the fourth world by a deluge and took refuge in a reed, as afterwards related of the flight from the fourth world.
  7. In the Navaho tales, when the yéi (genii, gods) come to visit men, they always announce their approach by calling four times. The first call is faint, far, and scarcely audible. Each succeeding call is louder and more distinct. The last call sounds loud and near, and in a moment after it is heard the god makes his appearance. These particulars concerning the gods’ approach are occasionally briefly referred to; but usually the story-teller repeats them at great length with a modulated voice, and he pantomimically represents the recipient of the visit, starting and straining his attention to discern the distant sounds.

Nearly every god has his own special call. A few have none. Imperfect attempts have been made in this work to represent some of these calls by spelling them; but this method represents the original no better than “Bob White” represents the call of a quail. Some of the cries have been recorded by the writer on phonographic cylinders, but even these records are very imperfect. In the ceremonies of the Navahoes, the masked representatives of the gods repeat these calls. The calls of Hastséyalti and Hastséhogan are those most frequently referred to in the tales…

  1. Yellow corn belongs to the female, white corn to the male. This rule is observed in all Navaho ceremonies, and is mentioned in many Navaho myths. (Pars. 164, 291, 379; note 107, etc.)
  2. An ear of corn used for sacred purposes must be completely covered with full grains, or at least must have been originally so covered. One having abortive grains at the top is not used. For some purposes, as in preparing the implements used in initiating females in the rite of klédzi hatál, not only must the ear of corn be fully covered by grains, but it must be tipped by an arrangement of four grains. Such an ear of corn is called tohonotĭ′ni.
  3. The Navaho word nátli or nŭ′tle is here translated hermaphrodite, because the context shows that reference is made to anomalous creatures. But the word is usually employed to designate that class of men, known perhaps in all wild Indian tribes, who dress as women, and perform the duties usually allotted to women in Indian camps. Such persons are called berdaches (English, bardash) by the French Canadians. By the Americans they are called hermaphrodites (commonly mispronounced “morphodites”), and are generally supposed to be such.
  4. These so-called hermaphrodites (note 29) are, among all Indian tribes that the author has observed, more skilful in performing women’s work than the women themselves. The Navahoes, in this legend, credit them with the invention of arts practised by women. The best weaver in the Navaho tribe, for many years, was a nátli.
  5. Masks made from the skins of deer-heads and antelope-heads, with or without antlers, have been used by various Indian tribes, in hunting, to deceive the animals and allow the hunters to approach them. There are several references to such masks in the Navaho tales, as in the story of Natĭ′nĕsthani (par. 544) and in the myth of “The Mountain Chant,” page 391.314 In the latter story, rites connected with the deer mask are described.[218]
  6. The quarrel between First Man and First Woman came to pass in this way: When she had finished her meal she wiped her hands in her dress and said: “Eʻyéhe si-tsod” (Thanks, my vagina). “What is that you say?” asked First Man. “Eʻéhe si-tsod,” she repeated. “Why do you speak thus?” he queried; “Was it not I who killed the deer whose flesh you have eaten? Why do you not thank me? Was it tsod that killed the deer?” “Yes,” she replied; “if it were not for that, you would not have killed the deer. If it were not for that, you lazy men would do nothing. It is that which does all the work.” “Then, perhaps, you women think you can live without the men,” he said. “Certainly we can. It is we women who till the fields and gather food: we can live on the produce of our fields, and the seeds and fruits we collect. We have no need of you men.” Thus they argued. First Man became more and more angry with each reply that his wife made, until at length, in wrath, he jumped across the fire.
  7. During the separation of the sexes, both the men and the women were guilty of shameful practices, which the story-tellers very particularly describe. Through the transgressions of the women the anáye, alien gods or monsters, who afterwards nearly annihilated the human race, came into existence; but no evil consequences followed the transgressions of the men. Thus, as usual, a moral lesson is conveyed to the women, but none to the men.
  8. 34, 35. Notes 34 and 35 are omitted.
  9. Version A.—Water in the east, black; south, blue; west, yellow; north, white. In the ceremony of hozóni hatál a picture representing Tiéholtsodi and the four waters is said to be made.
  10. Version A says that the nodes were woven by the spider, and that different animals dwelt in the different internodes. Version B says that the great reed took more than one day to grow to the sky; that it grew by day and rested by night; that the hollow internodes now seen in the reed show where it grew by day, and the solid nodes show where it rested by night. Some say four reeds were planted to form one, others that one reed only was planted.
  11. Version B.—The Turkey was the last to take refuge in the reed, therefore he was at the bottom. When the waters rose high enough to wet the Turkey he gobbled, and all knew that danger was near. Often did the waves wash the end of his tail; and it is for this reason that the tips of turkeys’ tail-feathers are, to this day, lighter than the rest of the plumage.
  12. Version A.—First Man and First Woman called on all the digging animals (ĭ′ndatsidi dáltso) to help. These were: Bear, Wolf, Coyote, Lynx, and Badger. First, Bear dug till he was tired; then Coyote took his place, and so on. When badger was digging, water began to drip down from above: then they knew they had struck the waters of the upper world, and sent Locust up. Locust made a sort of shaft in the soft mud, such as locusts make to this day.
  13. Version A says there were four cranes; Version B, that there were four swans. Both versions say that the bird of the east was black, that of the south blue, that of the west yellow, and that of the north white. (See note 18.)
  14. Two versions, A and B, have it that the bird passed the arrows through from mouth to vent, and vice versa, but all make the Locust pass his arrows through his thorax. Another version relates that two of the birds said: “You can have the land if you let us strike you in the forehead with an axe.” Locust consented. They missed their aim and cut off his cheeks, which accounts for his narrow face now. Version A relates that the arrows were plumed with eagle-feathers.
  15. Version A.—The Locust, before transfixing himself with the arrows, shoved his vitals down into his abdomen; then he changed his mind and shoved them high into his chest. That accounts for his big chest now.
  16. A small lake situated somewhere in the San Juan Mountains is said to be the place through which the people came from the fourth world to this world. It is surrounded, the Indians tell, by precipitous cliffs, and has a small island near its centre, from the top of which something rises that looks like the top of a ladder. Beyond the bounding cliffs there are four mountain peaks,—one to the east, one to the south, one to the west, and one to the north of the lake,—which are frequently referred to in the songs and myths of the Navahoes. These Indians fear to visit the shores of this lake, but they climb the surrounding mountains and view its waters from a distance. The place is called Ha-dzi-naí, or Ni-ho-yos-tsá-tse, which names may be freely translated Place of Emergence, or Land Where They Came Up. The San Juan Mountains abound in little lakes. Which one of these is considered by the Navahoes as their Place of Emergence is not known, and it is probable that it could only be determined by making a pilgrimage thither with a party of Navahoes who knew the place. Mr. Whitman Cross, of the United States Geological Survey, who has made extensive explorations in the San Juan Mountains, relates that Trout Lake is regarded by the Indians as a sacred lake; that they will not camp near it, and call it a name which is rendered Spirit Lake. This sheet of water is designated as San Miguel Lake on the maps of Hayden’s Survey. It lies near the line of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad, at the head of the South Fork of San Miguel River. It has no island. A small lake, which accords more in appearance with the Navahoes’ description of their sacred lake, is Island Lake. This has a small, rocky island in the middle. It is situated on a branch of the South Fork of Mineral Creek, three miles southeast of Ophir, Colorado, at an altitude of 12,450 feet. Prof. A. H. Thompson has suggested that Silver Lake, about five miles southeasterly from Silverton, Colorado, may be the Place of Emergence. This lake is 11,600 feet above sea-level, and is surrounded by four high mountain peaks, but it has no island.
  17. Version A.—Gánaskĭdi struck the cliffs with his wand. “Gong ê′” it sounded, and broke the cliffs open. Version B.—He of the darkness of the east cut the cliffs with his knife shaped like a horn.
  18. Version A.—They prayed to the four Winds,—the black Wind of the east, the blue Wind of the south, the yellow Wind of the west, and the white Wind of the north,—and they sang a wind-song which is still sung in the rite of hozóni hatál. Version B.—They prayed to the four Winds.
  19. The Kisáni, being builders of stone houses, set up a stone wall; the others, representing the Navahoes, set up a shelter of brushwood, as is the custom of the Navahoes now.
  20. Tsĭ-dĭ′l, or tsĭn-dĭ′l is a game played by the Navaho women. The principal implements of the game are three sticks, which are thrown violently, ends down, on a flat stone, around which the gamblers sit. The sticks rebound so well that they would fly far away, were not a blanket stretched overhead to throw them back to the players. A number of small stones, placed in the form of a square, are used as counters; these are not moved, but sticks, whose positions are changed according to the fortunes of the game, are placed between them. The rules of the game have not been recorded. The other games were: dilkón, played with two sticks, each the length of an arm; atsá, played with forked sticks and a ring; and aspĭ′n.
  21. Version A.—Coyote and Hastsézĭni were partners in the theft of the young of Tiéholtsodi. When Coyote saw the water rising, he pointed with his protruded lips (as Indians often do) to the water, and glanced significantly at his accomplice. First Man observed the glance, had his suspicions aroused, and began to search.
  22. Other variants of the story of the restoration of Tiéholtsodi’s young speak [220]of sacrifices and peace offerings in keeping with the Indian custom. Version A.—They got a haliotis shell of enormous size, so large that a man’s encircling arm could barely surround it. Into this they put other shells and many precious stones. They sprinkled pollen on the young and took some of it off again, for it had been rendered more holy by contact with the bodies of the young sea monsters. Then they put these also into the shell and laid all on the horns of Tiéholtsodi; at once he disappeared under the earth and the waters went down after him. The pollen taken from the young was distributed among the people, and brought them rain and game and much good fortune. Version B.—“At once they threw them (the young) down to their father, and with them a sacrifice of the treasures of the sea,—their shell ornaments. In an instant the waters began to rush down through the hole and away from the lower worlds.”


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